Wednesday, October 31, 2012

We're a Bolshie Bunch!

When I lived in Scotland, someone once told me that I was rather "Bolshie".  Bolshie is short for Bolshevik, and it means anyone who is opinionated, contrarian, and inclined to protest - and loudly.

It wasn't meant as a compliment, but I decided to take it as one. One of the  great things I've found about living at Pacific Gardens is that there are a lot of other Bolshies here, too.

Hold a demonstration, and we'll turn out in droves (or in a baker's dozen, as we did at the Defend Our Coast event last week).  Wave a petition in front of us, and you'll soon have plenty of signatures.

Have a cause, and we'll gladly let you have your organizing meetings in our dining hall, and we'll join you around the table and bring some good rabble-rousing ideas.

So it wasn't too surprising when the Council of Canadians held its annual conference in Nanaimo the weekend of October 26-28 that we billetted four of the delegates and attended conference events.

How could we resist something with the title, "Making Waves - Sinking the Harper Agenda", whose stated goal was to fight  against Harper’s austerity agenda and mining and pipeline projects that threaten our environment in B.C.?

We joined the 900 other people who came to hear speakers Chief Douglas White, Maude Barlow, Linda McQuaig, and Bill McKibben at the public forum which opened the conference.

Several of us attended the conference workshops on Saturday, and of course, we marched with the 400 others through Nanaimo's downtown streets to protest against tankers on our coast and pipelines in our pristine wilderness.

So, if you want to rock the boat, Pacific Gardens is the place to be - Bolshies forever!


Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Fall at PG!

Ok. So, island living is pretty awesome.

My favorite season has always been fall. Except that in Alberta it's cold, ends mid October and is covered in snow.

Here on the island, it lasts considerably longer and is much warmer. My family and friends back home are shoveling their snowy driveways while we are still enjoying lovely, albeit wet, fall walks.

And the Chase River, the salmon spawning river that cuts through the end of PG, is gushing. You can hear it from the back yard. We didn't hear its trickle at all earlier this year. But now? Wow!

Here is PG, taken today on my lunch break:


Hallowe'en Decorating

We have an unofficial decorating committee here at PG.

Mia and Roz head it up. Unofficially of course. ;)

And because I have been mostly responsible for the Halloween Party, I had decided that it was my job to help out too. Who am I couldn't tear me away. I am electing myself an unofficial member of the unofficial decorating committee.

We toiled for over two hours yesterday evening and with the help of the kids and other passersby, we made PG into a Spooktacular place to live.

This is the kitchen:

We reused the monsters from J's birthday.

And this is the Dining Hall (where the party will be):

And this is the atrium:

And the kids wanted their room decorated too!  They insisted on having the vampire peering into their room.

Then they would shut the door and all scream bloody murder. It was adorable!

And I have saved the first for last. Here is our entrance:

It was great to reuse pumpkin crafts from the kids. These were from last year.


Friday, October 26, 2012

We Defend Our Coast at Pacific Gardens

By now you will have read the news reports about the Defend Our Coast demonstration on the lawn of the BC legislature Monday. Perhaps you even saw Chad being interviewed - not once, but twice - by CTV about why he was willing to commit civil disobedience.

A baker's dozen of Pacific Gardens residents went down to Victoria on that cold, wet and windy day - but as usual, in our own anarchistic fashion.  Gloria went with her friends; I went with Tara and Jason; Jonathan and John went with Bill; Chad and Susana went the day before to attend the civil disobedience training; Kara and Matt went with their friends; Sharon drove down a day early to visit with a friend; and David was there, too, but I don't know who he went with!

We joined the 3,500 people gathered in front of the empty legislature who showed their political leaders the depth of our commitment to keeping Enbridge and Kinder Morgan pipelines and tankers from our pristine coast,  through several hours of speeches, prayers, dances and songs.

I have to say I had mixed feelings about the event.  As someone who has a tendency to over-analyze and is uncomfortable with group-think, I have never been a fan of demonstrations, even for the best of causes, and this one was no exception.

Why was it that all the speakers shouted, and often used threatening language? (You can see the influence of my Pacific Gardens non-violent communication training here). Why did I see raised fists?  Why did everyone shout "shame" when speakers recited the litany of wrong actions by governments or corporations?

Those responses seemed more reminiscent of those evangelical church services held in a tent rather than a thoughtful expression of protest. I've never liked being told what to say or think, even when I agree with what I'm being told!

I did find it so typically Canadian that the act of civil disobedience was pounding a stake into a lawn - omigawd, they're desecrating the grass! - and that the police were determined to nice everyone to death.

And I loved the creativity of the signs, banners and art work, especially the giant puppet of Mother Earth, who gave those same police a big hug, much to the delight of onlookers, and the fact that for once, First Nations people were front and centre, not an add-on to the event.

Did this achieve anything, other than a feel-good experience for those who have already made up their minds?  I don't know.  I hope against hope that it is the beginning of a new movement that will see thousands and thousands protesting, not just in B.C., but all across Canada.

Whatever does happen, though, I know that the dedicated people at Pacific Gardens will be there at the forefront, and this demonstration skeptic will join them.


Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Chili for CHLY

As many of you already know, I have been volunteering at CHLY 101.7 FM Radio Malaspina, Nanaimo's Campus/Community Radio Station and, every Spring and Fall Fundrive, I solicit up food donations and prepare and serve Vegan, Blazing Squash Chili outside the Radio Station on the last day of Fundrive.

Most of the donations to produce the chili have been often mostly collected from PGCC'ers, we use the Pacific Gardens dishes so as to not use disposable dishes, and PGCC'ers have helped with the prep, the cooking, the transporting and the serving of the chili and I have always attributed most of the credit to Pacific Gardens and the Green Store (owned by Chad at PGCC) for these events because I think it's a great way to promote our community!

You may wonder why I volunteer every spare moment to our local community radio station.  

My life and I have long been dedicated to helping make the world a better, healthier place to live. I grew up on the water and extremely close to nature and it provided me with a truly deep and meaningful experience and connection to nature, our environment and its mind-blowing ecosystems.  

My post-secondary career was literally embarked upon for the pure and simple purpose of trying to figure out what was wrong with our world systems that things should be so messed up, and then identifying methods and strategies for improving the state of affairs for people, the environment, and hence, people alike!

What I found from my investigations was that the kind of change that I wanted to see on the planet was implemented only by localized, grass-roots community movements.

I also found that corporately-owned media (which makes up for almost all media outlets in Canada, I can't remember what percent!) and advertising are used for indoctrinating the masses (us sheep) to a peer-pressured-consumer-culture. These corporately-owned media only report to us in a way that benefits their major shareholders providing us with what I like to basically refer to as Kraft News.

Media corporations pay extremely brilliant people lots and lots of money just to develop marketing and advertising strategies that manipulate even our own body's bio-psychological processes, convincing us away from trusting our own, natural, healthy processes and our rejuvenating relationship with the earth and into ignoring, and even distrusting our own innate sense that we are all a part of something fantastic and powerful and we don't need the right sunglasses and cell phone to be included in the party!  

In the final year of my post-secondary education I realized that I wasn't being funneled into a career that was going to make me happy nor fulfill my political objectives - that I wasn't going to actually be allowed to change anything that would lessen the powers of the powers that be - I was headed for a cubicle and a computer screen somewhere and later some anti-depressants and then maybe a classy sportscar later on if I was well behaved and didn't rock the boat!

I handed in my final scholastic paper explaining why I was convinced that it was of more justice for me to be growing food and connecting with my own community and environment than producing rhetoric for my professors and that that was what I was going home to do. I stood in the garden and proclaimed: "This is a one-woman revolution!"  

But, thank-god, it's not, there's everybody else.  All of us. We are all here, in it together and I'm so glad to be with you and not alone!  And I'm grateful to have found such an outlet as CHLY provides for real community messaging and such a service to still be available to the general public - this is of utmost importance in our current political environment!

CHLY gives me hope that we have not lost the battle for peace and love just yet, that we still retain some political clout and the ability to deliver an anti-corporate agenda!

This is too long but I just love CHLY sooo much!


They Aim To Inspire

This is Mia, one of our inspiring recyclers!

"We aim to inspire!"  That's the motto of Mia and Gloria, the two women who look after our recycling at Pacific Gardens, and boy, do they ever.

You may not have known it, but this week past, October 15th to 21st, was Waste Reduction Week in Canada. Now that's not something that would turn most people's cranks. It certainly didn't excite me, and I'm an avid recycler.

Just the title alone conjured up images of a self-righteous green-weenie lecturing me on the excessive use of styrofoam, or 497 ways to use egg cartons in your interior decorating scheme.

But the dynamic duo of Mia and Gloria turned it into a fabulous, fun event, with bright-coloured posters, a movie night with popcorn, and artistic displays showing us what not to put in the recycle bin.

I wasn't able to attend the movie night - which featured a quadruple bill, with a special feature for the kids - but what I heard from those who did go was that it was a wonderful, community-bulding event.

And that's what really heartens me about the contribution that these two dedicated women make to our community.  It's not just that they spend hours and hours on doing this.

It's that they also do it by incorporating our values - making it inclusive, educating without being judgmental, and celebrating our community.

To Gloria and Mia: I raise my empty juice box (well-washed before being tossed  in the recycle bin) in a toast in grateful recognition for all that you do to help us reduce, reuse and recycle at Pacific Gardens!


Thursday, October 18, 2012

Patience, process, and paint

I've written before about how living in cohousing encourages you to develop more patience - in my case, just a tiny little bit. We've just been through a process that would test the proverbial patience of Job, so you can just imagine what it's been like for me.

Almost a year ago, we decided we needed to do something to spiff up our rather gloomy and somewhat battered entrance. Numerous moves had left the walls chipped and covered in scrapes and black marks, and the dreary - although fashionable - grey paint was streaked and scuffed.

This did not reflect the cheery ambiance of the Pacific Gardens community, we thought, so plans for brightening up the entrance were discussed at two community meetings, as well as at various sub-committee meetings of residents eager to make it happen.

We had votes on at least three - or was it four? - kinds of wainscotting for the hallways, a vote on three different locations for the community bulletin board, and a vote on three different paint schemes, typified as bold, medium, and demure. (For some strange reason, I chose demure.)

It looked like something was actually going to happen. But, after 11 months, the entrance was still its usual, scruffy self.  Some residents were placing bets as to whether the work would be done in 2013 or 2014.

Finally, one night, a cohouser, frustrated after a difficult day at work, came home and decided it would be good personal therapy to paint one wall downstairs a brilliant lime green. It only took half an hour (which was the point). 

The reaction was immediate. E-mails flew back and forth faster than Harry Potter's messenger owls at Hogwarts - not all of them positive. But that bold action seemed to have an effect.  

Soon the gouges in the walls were patched and sanded. Bits of masking tape were placed in strategic locations. Strange notations such as "Star Thistle", "Chinking", and "Acid Rain" (that doesn't sound good!) appeared. 

Now rumour has it the walls will all be painted before next weekend, just in time for when our out-of-town guests arrive for the annual conference of the Council of Canadians in Nanaimo.

So we'll be watching that space - and posting pictures, too, of our splendiferous entrance!


Sunday, October 14, 2012

Thanksgiving turkey, soup, and cupboard doors

Living in cohousing creates an amazing amount of synergy. You may wonder what that word means. My Canadian Oxford dictionary gives a rather stodgy definition of synergy as "the increased effectiveness, achievement, etc. produced by combined action, co-ooperation, etc."

Well, at Pacific Gardens, it's much more interesting, often heart-warming, and occasionally funny.  The most recent example involves the cooking of our Thanksgiving turkey, the making of some delicious soup from its carcass, and the fixing of three broken cupboard doors.

We are most fortunate to have a splendid chef living in our midst, Mykl Love, so naturally, he took on the task of cooking our Thanksgiving turkey last week, using herbs from our garden as seasoning for the yummy dressing.  Needless to say, it was a gourmet feast!

There was a big carcass from the remains of the 22-pound bird, so Mykl put out a call for someone to make soup from it, and Doris Jensen responded, bringing a huge pot of succulent turkey broth full of veggies for us to enjoy at our regular Thursday night potluck.

Now, although Pacific Gardens has the latest in environmentally-friendly design features, the hinges on our kitchen cupboards are not among them. They have the annoying habit of falling apart with only the slightest of use. The day after the potluck Mykl e-mailed us all with a plea to help fix some of his.

"I'm having a heck of a time in our unit with the cupboard doors becoming unhinged from their brackets," he wrote.  "Has anybody else had this problem?  It has happened on three cupboard doors already and I'm concerned because I can't figure out at all how they go back on.  The screwy system makes no sense to me.  Is there anybody who can offer their expertise in this?"

Eileen, our feisty 86-year-old, immediately e-mailed him back and said: "Only three fell off??? --------Welcome to Pacific Gardens!!!! You have now been  initiated into the clan!!!! Just have a chat with John and that will soothe your nerves and frustrations. And it might even fix your doors????" (John is on our Building and Maintenance Committee.)

Of course, I immediately thought of Kaj Jensen, who had figured out an efficient and inexpensive solution to the cupboard door problem, and e-mailed Mykl to consult him. In no time all of those pesky cupboard door hinges were fixed. 

Kaj is the husband of Doris, who made the soup from the carcass of the turkey that Mykl cooked. That's definitely synergy in action, Pacific Gardens style!


Thursday, October 11, 2012

What do I want for Christmas?

I have always known that I shop to fill an emotional need.

Back in Alberta, I lived on an acreage in the middle of nowhere and I felt isolated. I had a few friends in town but they were always too busy to have coffee of whatever. So, when I felt stressed or bored or lonely and I needed something to distract me, I would often turn to shopping.

In the summers in Alberta, we went rafting or swimming in the Pembina River. Or we played croquet or badminton in the yard. But the  walks/hiking weren't great and there wasn't a whole lot else to do. Then, as soon as fall arrives it's often too cold to do anything (it's already snowing there!) and when toting three small kids, a lot of activities were just too frustrating to bother with. For example: If we go sledding, the kids slide down. Then they refuse to walk more than a meter up the hill. Then I have to haul them all up the hill. Needless to say, most sledding trips last about ten minutes and it takes my back a week to recover.

So, our go to fix was to head to the nearest shopping center and waste a day visiting stores and shops, picking up a new movie or board game or a new shirt or a new pair of jeans or even a Wii or Kinect video game.

But here, in cohousing, we have so many other distractions that we are too busy to shop. I get to chat with neighbours and my home is constantly buzzing with my kids and their friends running in and out. There are weekly yoga classes and weekly potlucks. There are Solstice celebrations, Thanksgiving diners, talent shows and unexpected  gifts and visits.

And when we have a day off, we are too tired to shop. And, while the weather has been so fabulous, we have been exploring. We are constantly looking for a new spot to find star fish and crabs and looking at Canada's biggest trees.

Once the rain comes in, we might revert back to the old ways a bit. We'll be depressed by rain and grey skies and need more outlets. We'll need to make sure those Tuesday night Game Nights get reinstated. :)

But, the point is that I feel my emotional needs are more fulfilled here. I am accumulating friends and love and that has reduced my desire to accumulate things.

The answer is to the questions, "What do I want for Christmas?" is:
I don't want anything.

Now,  the really question is, how do I get my husband, who loves to give gifts, to accept that? ;)


Tuesday, October 9, 2012


We are very thankful for this community. And apparently a lot of people are too.
The community was beautified by wonderful fall decorations provided/gathered/assembled by some of the members of the community.

I had taken a picture of the wonderful potluck feast but it was before the turkey was out and what’s a Thanksgiving feast without a turkey.
So many people came to our dinner. It was wonderful, and delicious, and warm.
I made one of my cakes for dinner.
There were so many yummy pies and desserts too. So I actually ended up with leftovers which is sort of unusual.

And once again we wrapped up the evening with a fabulous camp fire. I love the conversation around the campfire and I love going to bed with my face feeling hot from the fire and my hair and clothing smelling like smoke.

There is a lot to be thankful for here!

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Sunflowers and Sunshine

Pacific Gardens has sunflowers - ginormous, gigantic, Jack-and-the-Beanstalk-sized ones - outside our front entrance. They tower over us as we come and go, a sunny expression of our gardening efforts and a friendly greeter (although not like our late, beloved Capi, the concierge cat).

We've had endless days of sunshine for the past three months, which has been a blessing - but also a worry.The warm, summer-like days have meant we have been able to swim in our favourite places on the Nanaimo River or at Colliery Dam well into September, and the children have enjoyed playing outside for far longer than usual, with no rain to dampen their fun or our spirits.

But as the sunny days have continued on into October, we hear of rivers drying up in the Cowichan Valley, stranding spawning salmon and killing smolts, while the forests grow tinder-dry, and are at extreme risk of fire. This drought is breaking all records.

We're fortunate in Nanaimo that we have abundant water, and our Regional District managers are taking good care of this precious resource, making sure that our reservoirs are maintained and water conservation measures enforced.

We're also fortunate here at Pacific Gardens that we have a tributary of the Chase River running through our property, so we will always have access to fresh water - and that's a blessing we enjoy, along with the sunny weather, and the giant sunflowers that go with it.